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ISLAMABAD: Officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) declined on Thursday to provide details of the Chaudhary Sugar Mills case to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance.

A meeting of the committee, presided over by its chairman Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, asked Muzzafar Mirza, head of the SECP’s legal department, as to “what happened to the query forwarded by the committee seeking record of Chaudhary Sugar Mills?”

The SECP officials expressed ignorance about the letter, but the committee was informed that all record, including the original file, had been taken away by the Federal Investigation Agency during the investigation against the commission for alleged involvement of their suspended chairman Zafar Hijazi in the record tampering case.

Mr Mirza told the meeting that the record would be submitted to the committee when it was returned by the FIA.

Panel members unhappy over attitude of government departments

Members of the committee regretted that parliamentary committees were not being taken seriously by various government departments and bodies.

Mr Mandviwalla recalled that during its previous briefing on Aug 8, the committee had asked the SECP to submit details of the Chaudhary Sugar Mills case after it had discussed a similar case related to the Federal Board of Revenue.

The FBR had declined to give information about tax returns provided to the Joint Investigation Team and even the law ministry had stated that the FBR could not share information with the parliamentary committee under Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.

Incidentally, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf expressed ignorance about the response by the law ministry and asked the chairman of the committee to refer the case to him so that he could look into the matter.

Later talking to media, an official of the law ministry said the attorney general was legal representative of the government in the apex court and all such correspondences were the responsibility of the law secretary. The attorney general could have been informed in view of the prevailing conditions and the sensitivity of issues that are linked to the Panama Papers case, he added.

The committee finally decided to approach the Supreme Court for copies of the documents submitted by the FBR and SECP.

Mr Mandviwalla said that practically the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) had been rendered dysfunctional as its existence had been challenged in the courts by business groups which had been penalised by it mainly on charges of forming cartels.

But Mr Ausaf expressed optimism that the judgement in the case related to the existence of the CCP would be announced by the Lahore High Court in a few weeks.

The meeting approved the Corporate Rehabilitation Bill, 2017, with amendments and directed representatives of the construction sector from Fata, Pata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the FBR to sit together to find out a way to the grievances of the business community affected by Section 126F of the Income Tax Ordinance.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2017